The Department of Justice released a memo today announcing the end of federal contracts for all private prisons within the next five years.
Today, there are 14,000 federal inmates held in private prisons run by three corporations.
Last week, the Department of Justice released an inspector general’s report on private prisons that found for-profit detention centers to be substantially more dangerous for both the inmates and for the correctional officers, something it should have known all along.
The announcement will not take effect overnight, but as the Washington Post reports, it will be opposed by the three prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Management and Training Corporation:
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope.
The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.
The 13 privately run facilities will not close overnight. Yates said the Justice Department would not terminate existing contracts but instead review those that come up for renewal. She said all of the contracts would come up for renewal over the next five years…. by May 1, 2017, the total private prison population would stand at less than 14,200 inmates.
She said it was “hard to know precisely” when all the privately run facilities would no longer have federal inmates, though she noted 14,200 was less than half the inmates they held at their apex three years ago, a figure she said indicated the department was “well on our way to ultimately eliminating the use of private prisons entirely.”
Stock in the GEO Group has plunged by nearly 40 percent since today’s announcement.
Private prisons began in Louisiana just twenty five years ago, and have racked up enormous profits for the politically connected while providing less safety to inmates and less transparency for citizens seeking information about how these private companies spend their tax dollars.
Ultimately, today’s decision will only remove 10 percent of the 150,000 strong private prison population in America, but Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’ memo will be presented as competent, substantial evidence in state houses across the country by government accountability activists seeking to end the unseemly practice of paying private prisons to house inmates.